To say that it started with the South Carolina game would be wrong. This chapter started with the South Carolina game, but not the entire book.
So this chapter picks up with me minding my own business on my day off in October, planning to leave for a little Dixieland delight weekend to see Tennessee play South Carolina. I was watching an episode of Gangland and doing the wash. And my phone rang to show this:
I screen capped it because.. only I could manage to save someone’s number as “Jerk Face” and forget it was in my phone. For two seconds I couldn’t recall who might be known as Jerk Face. But realistically.. you all know who Jerk Face is, right?
Right. Friend. Not just any friend, The Friend. I should have declined. I should have hit the red button and just said “Never again.” but I didn’t. And I don’t know why. Sometimes there are questions in our lives that will never have answers. So many times with him I have wished to go back and hit a red reset button and stop everything that happened. But I can’t. I couldn’t then and I can’t now.
So I gave this thing the green light by pressing “answer” and saying hello. I invited mayhem into my life again. Come in, sit down, how’ve you been?
I tried all my old tricks of pretending not to know the number. “The is The Blonde,” I answered. “I know who I called. And you know who this is,” he almost growled into the phone. But not an agressive growl. One of ownership.
“What are you doing?” I asked the question meaning “Right now, in general, for the last year, anything” but only got the immediate answer. “Loading the dishwasher.”
And so it began, that dance that we do. I was rusty on the steps because I thought I wouldn’t have to know them anymore. One, and two, and three How-are-you and how-is-your-family and don’t-ask-anything-personal and always-be-funny, two-three four. Five, six, five, six, seven, eight.
We small talked for fifteen minutes before he cut to the chase. “Listen, I have tickets to the game tomorrow and nobody to go with. Are you going?”
My pulse quickened and I started to sweat. I opened my mouth to speak and nothing came out. I knew the answer was supposed to be no-thank-you. I cleared my throat.
“Well are you or aren’t you?”
Am I? Am I what? Am I totally susceptible to your wicked ways and powerless against even a few words after so long?
“Yes, I am.”
“Then you’re coming with me and you’re sitting with me.”
The details were worked out, the meeting place established, and like that, it was all in my head again.
The details of the game are inconsequential. We met outside town, he drove me and my companion in, we sat together, and the game ended. Maybe the only thing of note is that Tennessee was driving down the field with less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter for the win, and the quarterback was sacked about five yards from the goal line. He was two steps away from getting away from the defender. But it caught up with him and he fumbled the chance. It was fun while it lasted.
After the game nothing changed. I went back to my car, went back home, went back to normal life. I didn’t hear from The Friend again until two weeks later, following a miserable home game loss to Missouri. I was sure that the coach would be fired. I cried all the way back to the car. I tried to distract myself by messaging The Boyfriend to talk about the miserable loss. But he wasn’t available to console my broken football heart, so I went to the grocery store. And while I was there, what comes up on my phone again but that Jerk Face label. Funny, I didn’t change it.
“They’re going to fire him.” I wailed into the phone, probably too dramatic for the situation, but it felt painful at the time.
“They are. And they have to. But I will take you to dinner.”
And in thirty minutes we were eating cheeseburgers and laughing at Bama losing to Texas A&M and making eyes across a table in a public place. When we split the German chocolate slice I knew I was in. And as I fumbled my keys in the dark I knew I should hit the red button but I couldn’t.
The next morning I resisted the urge to text my usual “had a wonderful time, don’t be a stranger” text because it never works. But to my surprise he texted me. And continued to text me, first, every day for three weeks. Early mornings, late nights, holiday, weekends. There were inside jokes, pictures, smileys. It was like old times. And I let it go on because I can’t push the red button.
And then one day it was over. As quickly as it started. He texted me a picture and then poof he stopped responding to me.
So here I am sitting in my office, unable to concentrate on my real life, because once again.. I’ve done something that I’m not even able to identify. Nothing I did yesterday was any different from what I did the day before, or the two days before that.
This is the problem with existing at someone’s whim. You never know what you’re doing and if it’s okay or if it’s wrong. You never know if the joke you tell is going to be what sends someone running, or if sending a smiley face is going to be the end of everything.
The thing is, it isn’t. It isn’t anything I do, other than existing. It’s a problem that I exist. Because I am a distraction from his reality, because I am a temptress from what is good. So even if there was nothing wrong with what I wrote back, it’s all up to his whim. Everything has always been on his terms.
I figure the options are pretty much as follows: he lost his phone/fell off a cliff/whatever else makes me sleep better at night, he enjoys making me miserable (probable), he feels guilty and/or got caught by his wife (likely).
These things used to wreck me for months. I would be distraught and unable to work, eat, or sleep. And I would drool like Pavlov’s dog when I heard my phone buzz (and even when I didn’t..the phantom iPhone vibration is the worst). But I am determined not to let this wreck me for long than a day. I deleted the number entirely, and that’s great because I didn’t give myself time to remember it.
I know that the choice will come again, that I will have to choose between red and green, good and evil, mentally healthy and unhealthy. There is no use beating myself up for this choice. I will just make the right choice next time.